COVID: Past Delta’s Peak, A Return to Stage 3

Nearly 72% of vaccine-eligible Travis County residents are fully vaccinated

A COVID-19 vaccine tent at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 2 (Photo by John Anderson)

Earlier this week Austin and Travis County dropped down to Stage 3 of the local COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines, as the number of those hospitalized because of the disease continues to decline across Central Texas. The last time Austin was in Stage 3 was between March and May, before this summer's unprecedented surge fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and low vaccination rates.

Since the surge's peak in August, the seven-day moving average for COVID-19 hospitalizations – the key metric Austin Public Health relies on to stage the local risk level – has fallen by more than 60%, as has the number of those hospitalized in intensive care. "While our numbers are dramatically better than they were at the peak of this surge, we need to remain committed," said Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes, who encourages vigilance in masking and social distancing as Austin heads into the winter flu season.

The overwhelming majority of those hospitalized are not fully vaccinated, even as some qualifying high-risk individuals can now receive booster shots. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, nearly 72% of vaccine-eligible Travis County residents were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 13.

In Stage 3, fully vaccinated individuals can participate in outdoor, private gatherings and dine and shop without masking if allowed by the business, though they're still advised to mask up for indoor gatherings and travel. Fully vaxxed high-risk individuals should wear a mask when dining indoors. Health officials strongly recommend those who are not fully vaccinated mask up while attending outdoor, private gatherings, dining, shopping, and traveling.

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